Friday, August 06, 2004

Monkey Hanging

It looks like being a long hot summer in Hartlepool and Guacamoleville will be there to guide you through it. The by-election has been caused by Peter Mandelson's departure for a position as an EU Commissioner in Brussels.

Peter is a very controversial figure in the party - either you admire him for standing by Neil Kinnock during the 1980s and helping to turn the party into an electable force again, or you loath him for his self-publicity and errors of judgement. There seems to be no middle ground on this, so there's room for me to occupy it.

I have a sneaking admiration for Mandy. He may be the Prince of Darkness (I suspect this is an image he has encouraged in the past), but sometimes, all political parties need people prepared to get their hands dirty. He's certainly made some high-profile enemies and has also made some very high-profile mistakes. Those mistakes embarrassed the party and the PM - although you do wonder how much attacks on Peter are really veiled attacks on the PM.

Was there anyone better than Peter to wade into the labyrinthine politics of Northern Ireland? He could have been an NI politician in a different life.

Incidentally, the Guacamoleville name comes from a (probably apocryphal) incident when Peter and his team went into a Hartlepool fish and chip shop, ordered from the extensive menu of deep-fried marine life and then Peter asked for some of the guacamole dip. For those of you not used to this aspect of British culinary life, fish and chip shops sell basic, down-to-earth food. The staff then had to explain to Peter that the green stuff was in fact mushy peas.

Whatever happens, I don't think that this will be the last we will hear of Mandy.

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